Seven Portraits of Emily Withers by Regina Caggiano

art by Noah Buscher

In the late afternoons she would fill brown paper bags with a week’s worth of remains and hike them all thrown over her shoulder seven tenths of a mile down the road to the Bay House Compost Center. It was a place that bordered the forest. Along the treeline the receptacles sat like sentries of the garden in a neat yellow row of bins waiting to be turned over and shaken back down into the earth. In the late afternoons she is there, always, with brown bags tightly in her fists.


Once there was an old wooden bench with red knots of a wool sweater caught among the slats. The fabric had faded with sun and rain and there was nothing more to say about it, except that the slats between were mottled by flat fungus and creaked in the seat of her small weight whenever she sat down there, and though she weighed nothing at all, the screws groaned with a decade of labor.


One morning she found herself surrounded by the last of the yellow bees frantic in the grass, flitting through the reeds with a chaos that only ever portends the onset of fresh death. Little striped bodies skimming over the architecture of the lawn and the fallen leaves with a ferocity that brought the grass very alive. She spent a long time watching the movement of these small shadows. 


Then came the dark shape of a bird which passed over the softly yellowing plot of land with a sharp dart of spread wings, close to the sun, a shadow the size of a large man’s fist that twirled with the fluidity of a lithe body dragged through water.


And then, inexplicably as the morning passed, she found a rash of white ceramic chips dusted over the soil of the garden that, upon first glance, looked to be the remnants of a destroyed dish. Closer inspection revealed however the many milky slivers to be a collection of shattered seashells, whether thrown en masse or individually against the bark of the tree around which they were scattered it would never be made clear.


While wandering through the altars of the forest one night she thinks, there is something metaphorical about this arrangement of things: the single log freshly dead, the pile of fist-sized dark grey stones, the bottom ones not yet dried from the rain, and the pyramid of lumber, mossy and dark now, impossible to say how old or how long it has existed, only unnerving the way wood becomes soft. 


She knows when trees are cut down and die they release something that can be sensed by the others. Things not sentient by our or any definition but a place to be, still, nonetheless. And finds her way home in following the bandages of birch trees that have been felled, by time and storm and human hand, bark unwinding in a spiral from the brush.

Regina Caggiano is a 20 year old emerging writer and Literary Arts student. She lives on the upper East Coast where she has never meaningfully left New England. Her work has appeared in Crash Test Magazine, 805 Lit + Art, and is forthcoming in Beyond Words Literary Magazine. More of her work can be found at

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